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Dr. John Neary: A Role Model and a Compass

John Neary (English) has served the men of the Sigma-Xi chapter of Tau Kappa Epsilon as advisor for 15 years. This spring, the fraternity was able to show its appreciation when Neary was featured as an Everyday TKE Hero in the Spring 2016 issue of Teke magazine. We are delighted to reproduce the article here, with kind permission.

In September 2015 at a Thursday night meeting for the Sigma-Xi chapter of Tau Kappa Epsilon, Frater Dr. John Neary (#163) announced his upcoming retirement. After 30 years at St. Norbert, and 15 years as the TKE Chapter Advisor, he would be ending his tenure.

After attending the University of Notre Dame and the University of California-Irvine, Dr. Neary came to St. Norbert College in 1985 as an assistant professor of English. The small, liberal-arts, Catholic identity of St. Norbert matched perfectly with Dr. Neary’s personality. “I love sharing my enthusiasm for good literary stories with small groups of smart, lively students,” Dr. Neary remarks about his decision to come to St. Norbert to teach. “I think of teaching as a form of friendship, really, and St. Norbert has allowed me to approach my work that way.”  

If you were to ask any of the students at St. Norbert College about Dr. Neary, they would have nothing but enthusiasm and love for the esteemed English professor.

It was Dr. Neary’s Freshman Seminar program that led him to TKE. In the fall of 2001, Jason Sanders (#150) and Matt Sturm (#149) invited Dr. Neary to St. Norbert’s local coffee shop. When he arrived, he observed that they were wearing the trademark cherry red TKE shirts. They asked him if he would like to become their next advisor. “Would I be willing to be their fraternity’s advisor?” Dr. Neary reflects fondly: “Absolutely.”

Since taking on the advisor role, Sigma-Xi, a relatively small chapter, has produced three Top Tekes, multiple Awards of Excellence, and secured a firm spot as one of the best chapters in the Midwest.

During meetings, Dr. Neary is usually quiet, listening intently to every word spoken by the young Fraters. His great care and wisdom do not prevent him from remaining the fun-loving, humorous man that Sigma-Xi and the rest of the college community knows him as. Most important, however, he would speak up and guide the Tekes in the right direction, even if they didn’t know they needed it. Eric Harding (#166) expresses that this kind of energy has a very contagious effect on anyone who is around him: “You can’t know Frater Neary and not want to be a better man.”

Those Fraters who had Dr. Neary as their advisor have fond memories of their days with him. Seth Wanta (#203), a former Sigma-Xi Prytanis and 2010 Top Teke recipient, recounts that every week Dr. Neary would meet with him for lunch to discuss TKE and mentor him for life after college. “Dr. Neary is more than a mentor, educator and advisor,” Seth states, “He’s a friend.”

Over the next three years, Father James Neilson (#99), a professor of art at SNC and head of the St. Norbert College Parish, will be transitioned into the role of advisor. Father Neilson is another Teke from the Sigma-Xi chapter who has served in the advisor role previously. Even with the return of the similarly-beloved Fr. Neilson, Sigma-Xi Tekes, young and old, will miss Dr. Neary dearly, and his absence from the campus will be deeply felt. However, he will neither be lost, nor forgotten. On the topic of his upcoming retirement, Dr. Neary states, “As I approach retirement, I look forward to the way my ongoing identity as a Teke will keep me connected to the St. Norbert College community, which has meant so much to me for many years.”

“John Neary sees the good, the potential in young men and has the capacity and patience to encourage them to reach for and aspire to this potential.

“As my English advisor and principal professor, I witnessed this capacity in his classroom as he encouraged all manner of students to embrace their opinions, intelligence, and passion for literature. Frater Neary has given patient and prudent counsel in countless chapter meetings. And, most important, he’s given his support and kindness to Fraters who are dealing with serious health issues, relationship and family problems – the many hurdles we all face on the journey to become good men.

“When all the mottos, facts, and credos you learned in pledging melt away, what you’re left with is the bond of brotherhood – the friendship – that was formed with your TKE brothers. Frater Neary embodies this brotherhood. He unselfishly shares his intelligence, kindness and generous spirit with his brothers, and I am forever grateful to call him my friend.” – Eric Harding (#166)  

“When I think about Dr. Neary and his role in the Sigma-Xi chapter, I picture him sitting in our weekly meeting, carefully observing and listening to us, sometimes reacting with laughter, sometimes with wonder, and always with enthusiasm for our chapter and its members. Most of all, Dr. Neary has served as a role model for what it means to be a Teke – a real example of love, charity, and esteem that we can look up to and learn from. I’m proud to call him my brother.” – Kevin McGillivary (#217) 

“To keep it short, Neary is one of the kindest souls I’ve met. A very giving person, he would do anything for anyone – Teke, student, friend or family. I’m honored to have known him throughout my time as a Teke.” – Andrew Carver (#202) 

June 27, 2016